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Ten Greatest Giant Monster Movies of All Time
Best giant monster flicks
I have found it appropriate, in anticipation of the upcoming release of Godzilla, to rate what I believe are the greatest giant monster movies of all time. Unlike other lists, I would like to lay down one ground rule: Only one movie can be listed per series. Otherwise this list could be the top 10 movies of a particular series of all time. Having clarified that, let's get right into it!
Honorable mention: The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms
Why is this listed as an honorable mention? This movie inspired some of the other great monster movies on this list. In fact, if it were not for TBF20KF it is possible that the entire Japanese monster movie genre would have been nothing but giant apes climbing tall buildings in Tokyo. For some reason audiences really resonate well with dinosaurs rampaging through cities. TBF20KF set the standard for this genre and for that many of the others on this list owe a huge debt.
Rodan was the first motion picture from Toho to appear in color. No doubt, this movie capitalized on the success of Godzilla. But Rodan is unique to Godzilla in the respect that he is a giant pterodactyl and he does not breathe radioactive fire. True, many of the themes and warnings from Rodan are prevalent in Godzilla, but that makes explaining the origins of the monster much more simple: Hydrogen bomb testing did it. It works well for pretty much any plot involving indestructible giant monsters.
Mothra is a giant, radioactive, mutant moth that is the object of worship for the indigenous people of Infant Island. Mothra starts as an egg that is stolen, hatches into a larva, and then transforms itself into a full-grown moth. There are many plot elements that make this movie appealing. 1) Mothra is worshipped as a deity. 2) He has a psychic link with two micro-machine sized twin sisters. And 3) Mothra's personality is brought out very well through his unique human connection through these twins. Those are just a few of the elements to this movie that makes this one memorable.
8 The War of the Gargantuas
Not everyone is familiar with this title, but it is one well worth your attention. It is another Japanese giant monster showdown from the same people who brought you Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and others. Most people would not rate this higher than the last two that I listed, but Gargantuas is one of those movies that when it is given a chance is hard from which to withdraw. It has a great blend of action and plot that is rare for movies in its genre, especially with a giant monster battle. It is actually a direct sequel to Frankenstein Conquers the World. In Frankenstein, a young boy is exposed to intense radiation and grows to massive proportions. The Gargantuas are Frankenstein monsters of a similar vein. Because of that they are able to experience human emotions and even make moral decisions when it is necessary. Unfortunately for humanity, there are two Frankensteins/Gargantuas this time and one of them is pure evil.
J.J. Abrams launched his advertising for Cloverfield with a series of teasers that resembled The Blair Witch Project. It was the first (at least according to my knowledge) giant monster movie to record the destruction of the beast from the perspective of a stranded, helpless bystander. Although many people were disappointed with Cloverfield's hard to follow cinematography, it truly captured the feel of what it would be like for someone caught at ground zero. If a giant monster unexpectedly attacked your city, what would you do to survive? Cloverfield is truly one of a kind.
6 The Host
A South Korean film with themes that are culturally relevant and a monster that is different from any other that I have seen on the big screen aside from Hedorah in Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster. A clerk at a fried squid kiosk's world is turned upside down when his teenage daughter is kidnapped by a mysterious sea creature that leaves a path of death in his wake. What may be worse is that the government has unleashed data that suggests that the people who survived this monster's onslaught might be infected with some sort of strange disease. This film portrays the deterioration of the family unit, the failure of the collegiate education system, the corruption of government, the misplaced values of those aiming for perfection, and some weird South Korean humor that is surprisingly amusing. It is a movie that you can either watch or analyze all day long.
Gareth Edwards monster movie debut that rocked the indie film universe. Monsters is directly responsible for landing Edwards at the helm of the May 2014 Godzilla reboot. It is obvious that the producers did not have an enormous amount of money to make this film, but what Edwards lacked in a budget he made up for in suspense. It is one of those movies that is not about what you see that makes it interesting, but what you do not. The monsters in the film are as elusive as the Loch Ness monster despite the fact they are many times larger. You do not always get to see the beasts in their entirety. Most of the time you only get to see what would be visible if you ran face-to-face with these giant mutant squids from outer space. Great plot, great acting, definitely some hidden messages and symbolism; without a doubt worthy of number five on this list.
4 Gamera 3
The top four were the hardest to put together and some people will think that Gamera 3 being ranked number four is a jip. I had to think hard about this one because G3 set the standard of excellence for monster movies of the past fifteen years. One thing a person must really appreciate about G3 is that it came from a franchise (the title character, by the way, is an enormous FLYING turtle) that was attempting to compete with Godzilla, back in his heyday. It seemed pretty obvious who the victor of that marketing competition was. But in the 90s Toho produced five new Godzilla films and supposedly retired the King of the Monsters. For whatever reason, Daiae decided to bring back the flying turtle and usurp Godzilla's throne. With all factors considered, Gamera succeeded! The quality of the Gamera films was much better, the special effects were incredible, and the plots were unique to any other monster movie up to that point (even though I suspect they stole the plot from Jan de Bont's Godzilla, that was originally set to be released in the mid 90s, but I digress). G2 was hailed by many fans as being the best of the trilogy, but G3 really sealed Gamera's place in monster movie history by concluding the series and leaving the viewer in awe and horror not knowing the world's fate. Despite my acclaim for this movie, I felt that the next three deserved bronze, silver, and gold.
3 King Kong
"The Eighth Wonder of the World." This movie was ahead of its time and exemplified excellence in American culture. It brought to life an ancient lost world that people could only have dreamed of before its day. Kong surpassed any movie in terms of creativity and special effect before its day and showed the world the limitless possibilities of the big screen.The dinosaurs in the movie were remarkable. The actors were charismatic. But the two scenes that probably stole the show were King Kong's epic battle with the tyrannosaurus rex and his tragic battle with the airplanes on top of the Empire State Building. The most recent remake by Jackson did the old 30s version much justice. It was able to recreate certain scenes with the artistry and beauty that could not have been achieved in the 30s given their technological limits. Nonetheless, it is the old black and white version that has the mystique created by O'Brien and company that brought to life one of the greatest films in history.
2 Pacific Rim
Once again, people are going to hate me for bumping Kong out of one or two and placing Pacific Rim a position higher, but let's face it, Del Toro outdid himself with this one. The fight scenes are intense. The main characters are well developed and loveable. The plot (although a little hokey with a portal between two worlds located at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean) was well thought out. Guillermo Del Toro's signature style of bright colors, traditional effects, and wonder make this movie well worth watching over and over again. One of the most awesome things about this movie is that you don't have to waste time explaining it to friends. I have noticed that simply telling them that it is giant robots vs. giant robots is enough to spark their interest. Not only that, but it has some very memorable quotes. I spent a week trying to memorize the commander's motivational speech at the end of the movie and am guilty of randomly shouting, "Today, we are cancelling the Apocalypse!" at my friends.
1 Gojira/Godzilla: King of the Monsters
All razzle-dazzle aside, Gojira is hands down the best giant monster flick of all time. All one has to do to realize this is look at all of the comics, video games, fanzines, knock-offs, and all the other attention this iconic movie has generated and even now still celebrates 60 years after its original release! Sure, he was inspired by Kong and TBF20KF, but he took the giant monster genre to horrifying new heights. The story of Godzilla cannot be fully understood from the American rendition, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, but is better explained through the Japanese version (with English subtitles, of course). You learn that Godzilla is more than just a radioactive dinosaur/dragon, but the embodiment of the horrors of World War II and a grim reminder to those who had started living life as though such an event never happened. But why does Godzilla appeal to an international audience? If I had to guess, there are many reasons. For one, Gojira concludes with a heartbroken scientist sacrificing his own life so that the monster would be destroyed and his secret weapon would never be uncovered. This is reminiscent to the whole night in shining armor, taking on the dragon and sometimes sacrificing himself for the greater good. Self-sacrifice of such a noble degree is loved by all cultures. Also, Godzilla, universally, represents wrath. For some, the wrath of nature for mankind causing it undue harm. For others, the wrath of God and the reality that everyone deserves judgment. A natural disaster would convey the point of wrath, but when you give that force of nature a face, its destruction and judgments become intentional. Nothing is more menacing than an indestructible, gargantuan, fire breathing beast staring you down just seconds before he releases radioactive fury on your helpless soul. But there is so much more to Godzilla and Godzilla fandom than what can be gathered from the original Gojira. With Gareth Edwards' upcoming release of Godzilla, fans eagerly await both the resurrection of Godzilla as he was intended to be seen as well as an expansion on the character that will make him even more relevant and likeable for Western audiences. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.